Old and new names are moving firmly into the Tigers’ plans for hiring a new manager.
Ron Gardenhire, whose early Twins teams annually tormented the Tigers during his years as skipper, will be among those interviewed to replace Brad Ausmus, according to a source familiar with the Tigers’ process who asked not to be identified.
Also on the interview list, according to three sources apprised of the Tigers’ plans, all of whom requested anonymity: Fredi Gonzalez, the former Marlins and Braves manager who will meet with Tigers general manager Al Avila and his staff Thursday at the Tigers’ minor-league headquarters at Lakeland, Fla.
Alex Cora, a bench coach with the Astros, will interview following the Astros’ playoff games, as will Cubs bench coach Dave Martinez. Hensley Meulens, hitting coach with the Giants and a former manager in the World Baseball Classic, has a meeting in Lakeland, as well.
Yet another bench coach will be interviewed: Mike Redmond, a former Marlins manager now with the Rockies. Colorado was to meet the Diamondbacks in a Wednesday night wild-card playoff game.
Gardenhire has the most familiarity with Detroit’s baseball world because of his 13-season span with the Twins from 2002-2014. His teams, which early on played at a Tigers death-trap known as the Metrodome, seemed always to torture the Tigers, never more than in October 2009, when they won a single-game playoff classic against Detroit.
Gardenhire turns 60 later this month and could be appealing to the Tigers, not only because of his experience, but because he endured peak and rebuilding times with the Twins. The Tigers are facing the specter of tough seasons next year and likely through at least 2019 as they reconstruct an aged team working to shed tens of millions of dollars in overweight salaries.
Avila has said he wants experience in his next skipper, which is why Gonzalez, too, could enjoy an edge. He managed the Marlins from 2007-10, and the Braves from 2011-16.
Redmond is another of the Marlins managerial alumni (2013-15) and, like Gonzalez, is known by Avila and many of his staff, dating to their common years with the Marlins in the 1990s.
Cora, Martinez, and Meulens have not managed in the minor leagues or big leagues, although their reputations as smart and accomplished baseball lieutenants are sterling. Martinez has interviewed for several past big-league manager openings.
A former manager who was just fired as a Royals coach, Don Wakamatsu, is not on the interview list, nor is Ozzie Guillen, the longtime White Sox and Marlins skipper.
Avila has said the hiring process will be deliberate. It is believed the earliest a new manager would be named is the last week of October. If the Tigers were to name a new manager before the World Series is decided, Avila would need to obtain formal permission from Commissioner Rob Manfred’s office.
It is just as possible any new skipper will be announced in early November.
The Tigers have interviewed in-house candidates Lloyd McClendon, Dave Clark, and Omar Vizquel, all of whom were on Ausmus’ staff. Of the group, only McClendon has manager experience accrued during his years with the Pirates and Mariners.